Peace Stories

I’m a stickler for program. If someone in an A.A. meeting starts talking some crap that’s not in the book — or worse yet, reading from Hazelden — it really bugs me. I don’t always bust them out on it, but I always want to. My pride causes me to act like an Elder Statesman, even when my mind is a Bleeding Deacon.

One guy who pissed me off at least as much as anyone else was Dave Moore. He was a huge guy; probably 6’4″, about 350 lbs. Probably went 240 solid muscle when he was jumping out of planes in Vietnam with the Army 82nd Airborne. And boy did he like to talk about Vietnam. 20 years sober and he can’t stop talking about shit that happened 40 years ago, half a world away. He also loved to talk about his days hunting and fishing — poaching, really — in Michigan and Alaska. He was a commercial fisherman and jacklighted deer when he could. He claimed to have killed over 200 deer, and only one legally. That was the one he hit with his truck.

But mostly he talked about his daughter. For 2 whole years, every time he shared he talked about how he talked to her — and his grand-daughter — on the phone. Then for a year he talked about how he was going to go see her. He finally left to spend some time with her — and meet his 9-year-old grand-daughter — and I was hoping the worst of it was over. Nope! When he got back he spent an entire year telling us how great it was to spend time with them. Over and over and over…. Then he spent about 8 months telling us how he was going up to see them again. “And my grand-daughter asks me: ‘When are you coming up to see me, Pop-Pop?’ She calls me Pop-Pop!” Close to a year of the same shit, over and over.

He never once talked about the steps, or God, or the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve… Just fishing, poaching deer, Vietnam and his goddam grand-daughter. How the fuck are people supposed to stay sober — or even want what we have — if we ramble on about the mundane crap in our lives.

One time I’d had enough of it, and I was talking to Tony P. — Puerto Rican Tony — about it. “How the hell can we get him to shut up about things that don’t belong in an A.A. meeting?” I asked him.

“Really? I like it when Dave shares. It’s true that no one can quote the Big Book like you and Roofer Terry and Chinese Mike”, he told me. “Hell, Michael even tells us the page numbers so we can spot-check him. But that’s not what people want in a meeting. By their 3rd meeting everyone knows they should get a sponsor and work the steps. Honestly, if all you’re gonna do is quote the Big Book, we can just read that for ourselves.

“But Dave does it exactly like he’s supposed to. He tells us what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Sure he talks about going to see his daughter next year. He’s looking forward to the future. That’s a message of hope, and he shares it every single day.

When I finally got around to actually listening to Dave, I heard what he said with a new set of ears. Sure enough, he talked about Vietnam, commercial fishing in Alaska, poaching deer in Michigan, and how he was going to visit his daughter and grand-daughter soon. When he finished, he did so the same way he had a thousand times before: “… and when my daughter calls me today, she doesn’t say: ‘Hey, you lousy no-good drunk!

As I think about it today, I can’t think of a more touching thing to hear. It brings tears to my eyes. That is the actualization of the promises. That is the most glowing recommendation for membership in A.A. that I’ve ever heard. That is a life fully restored through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dave died about 6 years ago, on Halloween night. He actually died at Sobrenity. A few of the guys were sitting around playing cards, and he said he didn’t feel well. He said he was having trouble catching his breath. They called an ambulance for him but he collapsed of a heart attack before they got there. He was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.Dm032208

I miss Dave Moore and his message of hope. God bless you, my friend. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for living the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

4/1/15

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JT and the Shitty Little Miracle

For much of my time in A.A. I have disparaged my sobriety. Hell, for a long time I lived in the woods. Even today, I live in a tent in Tivo’s back yard. 15+ years since my last drink and I don’t even have a driver’s license or a car. It’s easy to look at my financial status and derive my worth as a human being from that. At least it is for me.

To make it easier, I’m not a spiritual guru. I suppose if I shaved my head, wore an orange robe and walked around begging for rice it would be easier to see me — my path — as something approaching spirituality. But that’s not me. That’s not what I am. I’m not seeking enlightenment. I’m just really poor. It’s easy for me to feel like a failure. It’s been a long time since my last drink, but it hasn’t been that long since I’ve told myself I was a worthless piece of shit.

A.A. has cute little sayings like “If you want what we have…” and “You have to give it away to keep it…“. Shit… Even *I* didn’t want what I had. And I couldn’t give it away, no one else wanted it, either! They were trying to get rid of what I was trying to give away!

But I need to remember there was a time I could not go one damn day without one damn drink. I need to remember that there was a time I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling disgust. I could not live in my own skin.

That was in fact why I could not stop drinking: because *I* could not stop drinking. The “me who was” would never be able to stop drinking. He had to drink just to live with himself. But I could “not drink for one day” and hear about how other people had changed the “them who was” into someone else; someone who didn’t need to drink. I did that every day, and little by little I became someone who didn’t hate himself. Then into someone who didn’t mind being me. Finally, I became “Jim: a pretty good guy“.

I think that’s what the steps did for me. They allowed me to become someone new. Someone I could be proud of.

Also, when they got to the part in How it Works where they say: “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders…” I used to raise my hand. Partly so the women couldn’t say I never warned them, but mostly because I’m a fucked up puppy and I need to own that. I’ve got anger issues and abandonment issues and unresolved mother issues and father issues and God issues… Left to my own devices I’m a crack head and a sex addict – probably even addicted to Facebook – I’ve even been known to eat carbs after 8:00 P.M.. I’m a mess!

But if you find an alcoholic who claims his only problem is that he drinks too much, you RUN! He’ll probably lie to you again. You can’t become an alcoholic – and cause the kind of chaos in the lives of every single person who loves you — without having a bucket full of mental problems. Selfishness, self-centeredness, self-will run riot: these are just the tip of the iceberg for most of us in the rooms.

I remember when I found out Real Ron and I were dating the same woman. I’d known both of them for 10 years – and thought the world of both of them — and there I was hoping that they traded venereal diseases or got into a car wreck on the way to pick up condoms…

I called my sponsor crying: “I’m such an horrible person! How could I wish harm on two people who are just trying to find happiness?”

He told me: “That’s great news! Glad to hear it!”

I said: “You don’t get it! I made a list of all the qualities I want to have – even think I have – but my thoughts and actions don’t reflect that person at all! I’m a real asshole!”

“Yes,” he said. “and that shows how much progress you’ve made. Crazy people never question their own behaviour.”

So when I used to say I had “shitty sobriety”, I don’t think I get to do that. I don’t think I get to disparage my — or anyone else’s — sobriety. I can’t look at these miracles and say: “Well, that guy over there won a million dollars in the lottery, so that’s a ‘Great Big Kick-Ass Miracle‘, but I’ve been sober for a decade and a half — under some pretty difficult circumstances — but that’s just a ‘Shitty Little Miracle‘.” I don’t think I get to do that.

In fact, what kind of ungrateful fuck would even try? I need to remember that not having to drink — even when bad things happen (for long periods of time) — is a ‘Great Big Kick-Ass Miracle’! Being the kind of man I can be proud of is just icing on the cake.

There’s so much that I like about myself today. I like my hair. I wish I had more of it – and that it wasn’t so grey – but I’ve got a lot more than most people my age. I like my face. The scar tissue under my eyes and my nose – broken over a dozen times – are proof that I have completely fucked up a lot of people’s knuckles, but it’s a face I’ve grown to love. I’ve got a few extra pounds – that I’m in the process of losing, again! — but this body’s holding up damn well considering everything I’ve put it through. I like my sense of humor. I often make jokes at my own expense, but I never use it to make other people feel bad about themselves, or look silly or inconsequential to others. I like my mind. Sometimes it can be my worst critic, but it’s allowed me to create a man of high moral fiber — who can be a good friend – and I can assure you I didn’t have much to work with when I began that project.

I don’t have a wife today — or even a girlfriend — but I am a good man worthy of a good woman. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. They’ll both sing my praises. Some of my children are mad at me, but I’m a good Father. In fact, one of them is mad at me because I’m a good Father, imparted my advice without judgement and set personal boundaries with her.

So to all those who have heard me say “I have shitty sobriety“, I would like to apologize.

To all those who have a hard life, I would like to say that if you tried really hard today, whether you won the battle or not — even if you feel pretty beat up — there’s something about you that I love. I love your courage and your conviction. I love that you stood up for yourself or someone else. You woke up this morning, faced a mountain of hardship and did not despair. You told yourself: “I will make what progress I can today” and you moved forward. I am proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. You’re a Miracle, and there are no “Shitty Miracles”.

3/28/15Goddess sm

 

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The Face of God on a Pool Table

I’d never seen pool played before when I was 15 and introduced to the game. A friend had a pool table and a couple of us went over to his house. Two of my friends were playing — I was just watching — when I figured out the game. “It’s just Physics and Geometry”, I thought. “Hit the ball at the right angle and the right speed and it goes in the little hole”. When my turn came — my first game — I pretty much ran the table.

Later I learned that it’s not just the angle you hit it at, but where you hit the cue ball determines “the lie”. If you hit the cue above the center-line, it rolls on after it strikes the next ball; if you hit it below the center-line it stops after striking the next ball. Either one can be good, depending on where you want the cue ball to “lie” for your next shot.

When I saw my first pro — or trick-shot guy — he made that damn ball curve, go backwards… even fly through the air! And when I saw all of that, I didn’t think: “He’s a witch! The hand of a demon moves his ball!” I just thought: “Man, that sumbitch knows a lot more about Physics and Geometry than I do!

I didn’t think it was magic, though.

I’ve always understood that there are rules at play in the Universe; some we know about, some we don’t. Try to remember that 500 years ago Isaac Newton blew the world’s mind when he started talking about Gravity, and saying things like: “For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction”. His laws of motion were groundbreaking, and today we take all of it for granted, but it’s really rather recent.

There’s a well known phenomenon where if two people really want to achieve a goal, and one of them repeats his goal every morning — or looks at a picture of the Mustang he wants to buy — he has a far greater chance of achieving it than the other one does. Through the recent times this has gone by many names: “Think and grow rich” (Napolean Hill), “The power of positive thinking” (Norman Vincent Peale), “Thoughts become things” (Mike Dooley), “The law of attraction”… There are even people who say if you believe something strongly enough, you actually bend reality, or manifest things into being (Don Miguel Ruiz).

I’m living in a tent right now, and it’s been raining a lot. At 56 years old I have to go pee several times a night, and it’s not a lot of fun to put shoes and socks on just for a 30 second tinkle, but less fun to tromp through the mud and track it back into the tent (I refuse to wear shoes without socks. It’s just wrong). So Thursday last I decided to buy some flip-flops. I had the money and was going to Walmart after work the next day anyway, so I decided I would buy them there. At that point there was nothing the Universe could do to stop me from having flip-flops come nightfall, Friday.

But when I got to the bus stop Friday morning — in front of the Walgreens — there was a Walgreens bag tied up with no one around. When I looked in it there was a pair of flip-flops — marked 9 1/2, just my size — with the receipt still in the bag. Some people might say “That was the hand of God!”, but I just believe that I squeezed the Universe into a position where it was not possible to deny me the shoes, and just as easy to give them to me. The Universe and my course of action remained unchanged. I still had to go to Walmart that night for my other stuff. The only thing that changed was I had an extra $8.50 at the end of the day. Small potatoes.

Things like this have happened to me enough times in my life that it doesn’t even phase me. I don’t jump up and down and yell “God Loves Me!” even if it’s something substantially bigger than sandals. It’s like if your opponent sees that checkmate is inevitable and concedes the game by tipping his king over, he’s not doing something magnanimous that you need to thank him profusely for, he’s just acknowledging that you’ve already won. You don’t have to make the last 2 moves for your victory to be real.

After Einstein published his “Theory of Relativity”, he began work on something called the “Unified Field Theory”. He never finished it, but he had set out to prove that Mathematics, Music, Chemistry, Physics, Religion… They were all the same thing, expressed in a different manner. Most importantly, the same rules applied in all of them. Christianity says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, Eastern religions say “Karma is the universe giving back to you what you gave out”, and Physics says: “For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction”.

Einstein died before he finished the Unified Field Theory, but a fellow named Thomas Campbell picked it up and wrote a trilogy called “My Big Toe”. Toe being “Theory Of Everything”. It’s a very readable set of books, and I highly recommend them.

So when I see people getting better results than I’m getting in life — and they start spouting about “God’s Love” — I don’t think “I should believe as they do!“. I just think: “Man, that sumbitch knows a lot more about the rules of Life than I do!” I figure they’re following a set of rules that are (in many ways) closer to the best way of doing things. When they talk about the Power of Prayer, they aren’t necessarily attributing their successes to the right thing, but I’m not sure that matters. It’s human nature to anthropomorphize: including giving human qualities (like a beard, benevolence and compassion) to the laws that govern the universe.

So if you want to see the Face of God, you should probably just study Physics, since that’s the field we’ve made the most headway in. We haven’t made any headway in religion in several thousand years. Or you could just play a game of billiards. God is everywhere.

3/30/15

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